Officers who want to briefly veer off the promotion track could soon get extra time to beef up their resume before facing a selection board, the Air Force said May 13.
Starting with promotion reviews in October, the Air Force and Space Force will allow captains, majors and lieutenant colonels who apply for the program to temporarily skip promotion consideration if they want to try another opportunity first.
That includes an assignment to broaden a service member’s expertise or of “significant value to the Air Force,” pursuing advanced education, or to finish another career-progression requirement that was delayed by a posting or schooling, the service said.
“This is another step in our larger Department of the Air Force effort to create a more agile, responsive and transparent talent management system,” said Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, in a news release.
The Air Force hopes airmen and guardians will use the flexibility to become better-rounded members, without fear of being left behind once they become eligible for promotion. People can ask to skip the typically mandatory selection board up to three times per grade.
For example, the service said, “a combat support officer who pursues an Air Force-funded, resident PhD program as a lieutenant colonel might find themselves in a position where they are approaching their colonel’s board in-the-promotion zone … without having completed squadron command.”
“Since squadron command is a key developmental assignment for most combat support communities prior to the rank of colonel, this new authority will allow the member to opt out of promotion consideration from one to three years, one year at a time, in order to complete a successful assignment as a squadron commander,” the service said.
The change could lead to more airmen and guardians becoming qualified to advance compared to previous years — which in turn may make promotions more competitive among more, better qualified troops.
A similar overhaul of the promotion system in 2019 split airmen from one big pool into six groups to compete for a higher rank among people in similar jobs. That move tailored promotions to the unique requirements of each type of career, allowing airmen to progress without being judged on standards that didn’t apply to them.
“Within the next few years, additional talent management initiatives are expected to be released to include new officer and enlisted evaluation systems,” the Air Force said.
Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.